- The Big Picture shares shocking photos of the Portuguese forest fires.
- blogTO notes that, happily, Seaton Village's Fiesta Farms is apparently not at risk of being turned into a condo development site.
- Centauri Dreams notes a new starship discussion group in Delft. Shades of the British Interplanetary Society and the Daedalus?
- D-Brief considers a new theory explaining why different birds' eggs have different shapes.
- The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas commits himself to a new regimen of blogging about technology and its imports. (There is a Patreon.)
- Language Hat notes the current Turkish government's interest in purging Turkish of Western loanwords.
- Language Log's Victor Mair sums up the evidence for the diffusion of Indo-European languages, and their speakers, into India.
- The LRB Blog notes the Theresa May government's inability post-Grenfell to communicate with any sense of emotion.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen wonders if the alt-right more prominent in the Anglophone world because it is more prone to the appeal of the new.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw wonders if Brexit will result in a stronger European Union and a weaker United Kingdom.
- Seriously Science reports a study suggesting that shiny new headphones are not better than less flashy brands.
- Torontoist reports on the anti-Muslim hate groups set to march in Toronto Pride.
- Understanding Society considers the subject of critical realism in sociological analyses.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russia's call to promote Cyrillic across the former Soviet Union has gone badly in Armenia, with its own script.
- Centauri Dreams looks at the complex prebiotic chemistry in the system of young triple IRAS 16293-2422.
- Language Hat looks at the central role played by Kyrgzystan writer Chinghiz Aitmatov in shaping Kyrgyz identity.
- The Map Room Blog shares Baltimore's new transit map.
- Steve Munro examines the Ford family's various issues with TTC streetcars.
- The Russian Demographics Blog reports on the latest UN Report on the Donbas and the conflict there.
- Window on Eurasia notes that the number of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Union fallen sharply through demographic change including assimilation.
- Crooked Timber enthuses over the remixing, or remastering, of arguably the Beatles' most iconic album.
- Far Outliers notes the Albanian language's alphabet struggles in the wider geopolitics of Albania.
- Joe. My. God. notes an American soccer player opted to quit rather than to wear a Pride jersey.
- Language Hat notes a new online atlas of Algonquian languages.
- The NYRB Daily argues that Theresa May's election defeat makes the fantasy of a hard Brexit, at least, that much less possible.
- Window on Eurasia notes Russia's concern at the dissipation of the prestige of its language and script its former empire, especially in Ukraine.
- blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.
- Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.
- Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.
- Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.
- The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.
- Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.
The National Post has a feature from Graeme Hamilton noting the controversy associated in Québec with the flag of the Patriote rebels of 1837.
On May 22, as the rest of Canada celebrates Victoria Day, Quebecers will get a day off in honour of les Patriotes, the 19th-century rebels who fought to bring responsible government to what is now Quebec. It’s no surprise that the mostly French-speaking province isn’t terribly keen on paying tribute to a long-dead British monarch, and such Patriote leaders as Louis-Joseph Papineau, Jean-Olivier Chénier and Wolfred Nelson are worthy of celebration. Yet last week, Quebec’s Liberal government angered nationalists by blocking a proposal to have the Patriote flag fly above the legislature in Quebec City.
Q: Who were the Patriotes?
Charles Alexander Smith via Wikipedia
Charles Alexander Smith via Wikipedia"Assemblée des six-comtés", a painting depicting the Assembly of the Six Counties, held in Saint-Charles, Lower Canada on October 23 and October 24, 1837
A: The Patriotes was the name given to Papineau’s Parti canadien and the popular movement he and others inspired to rise up against British colonial rule in 1837-38. “The primarily francophone party, led mainly by members of the liberal professions and small-scale merchants, was widely supported by farmers, day-labourers and craftsmen,” the Canadian Encyclopedia says. They advocated democracy and the right to self-government, but at the same time they were in no hurry to get rid of the seigneurial system. After the rebellion was crushed, many participants were imprisoned, exiled or hung.
Q: What is the Patriote flag?
A: The flag was introduced in 1832 by Papineau’s political party and was carried at political speeches and into battle during the rebellion. It is a simple design consisting of three horizontal bars, green, white and red from top to bottom. The flag was seen by the Montreal aristocracy as a revolutionary symbol, and in 1837 the Montreal Herald wrote urging people to destroy it. Some early versions also featured a beaver, a maple leaf or a maskinonge fish. Today, the flag often has the profile of a musket-toting, toque-wearing, pipe-smoking rebel superimposed in the centre.
- blogTO looks at deserted Mirvish Village.
- Crooked Timber reenages with the Rachel Carson and DDT myth.
- The Crux looks at the Mandela Effect, exploring false memories.
- Dangerous Minds makes the case for the musical genius of Bobbie Gentry.
- From the Heart of Europe's Nicholas Whyte recounts his visit to Albania's bunker museum.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Brazil's retirement of its only aircraft carrier.
- The LRB Blog looks at the extent and speed of events in the Trump Administration.
- Marginal Revolution engages with a book examining France's carving out a "cultural exception" in international trade agreements.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw reports on the passing of rulership of the Australian micronation of Hutt River.
- Peter Rukavina shares good advice for visiting museums: visit only what you can take in.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Russian Orthodox Church opposition to a certain kind of Russian civic nationality, and argues Russia is losing even its regional superpower status.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell reports on how local councils in the United Kingdom are speculating on commercial property.
- Centauri Dreams notes the sad news that, because of the destructive way in which the stellar activity of young red dwarfs interacts with oxygen molecules in exoplanet atmospheres, Proxima Centauri b is likely not Earth-like.
- Crooked Timber takes issue with the idea of Haidt that conservatives are uniquely interested in the idea of purity.
- D-Brief notes the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the heart of 47 Tucanae.
- The Dragon's Tales reports on the search for Planet Nine.Far Outliers reports on the politics in 1868 of the first US Indian Bureau.
- Imageo maps the depletion of sea ice in the Arctic.
- Language Hat remembers the life of linguist Patricia Crampton.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes some of the potential pitfalls involved with Buy American campaigns (and like political programs in other countries), including broad-based xenophobia.
- The LRB Blog looks at nationalism and identity in their intersections with anti-Muslim sentiment in Québec.
- The Map Room Blog links to an essay on the last unmapped places.
- Torontoist notes the 2017 Toronto budget is not going to support affordable housing.
- Transit Toronto reports on TTC revisions to its schedules owing to shortfalls in equipment, like buses.
- Window on Eurasia claims that Putin needs a successful war in Ukraine to legitimize his rule, just as Nicholas II needed a victory to save Tsarism.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a freelance writer.
- The Dragon's Tales notes how the Indus Valley Civilization did, and did not, adapt to climate change.
- Language Log reshares Benjamin Franklin's writings against German immigration.
- The NYRB Daily follows one family's quest for justice after the shooting by police of one Ramarley Graham.
- The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the Pale of Settlement.
- Torontoist looks at Ontario's food and nutrition strategy.
- Transit Toronto reports on how PRESTO officials will be making appearances across the TTC in coming weeks to introduce users to the new system.
- Window on Eurasia looks at how ethnic minorities form a growing share of Russian emigration, looks at the manipulation of statistics by the Russian state, and suggests Putin's actions have killed off the concept of a triune nation of East Slavs.
- Centauri Dreams shares a proposal for the relatively rapid industrialization of space in a few short years using smart robots with 3d printign technology.
- To what extent, as Crooked Timber speculates, the Arthurian myth complex science fictional?
- Dangerous Minds shares a lovely middle-finger-raised candle.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at the interactions between atmospheres and rotation for super-Earths and Venus-like worlds.
- Joe. My. God. notes Wikileaks' call for Trump's tax returns.
- Language Hat shares some words peculiar to Irish English.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the words of Trump are meaningless.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cown considers some scenarios where nuclear weapons may end up being used.
- The Russian Demographics Blog looks at births and deaths in Russia between 2000 and 2015.
- Savage Minds considers, inspired by the recent Michel Foucault read-in protest to Trump, the relationships between Foucault's thinking and racism.
- Window on Eurasia calls for a post-imperial Russian national identity, argues that Trump's assault on globalization will badly hurt a Russia dependent on foreign trade and investment, and wonders what Putin's Russia can actually offer Trump's United States.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell offers a unique strategy for journalists interested at penetrating Trump's shell: trick them into over-answering.
- Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith notes that his husky loves the winter that has descended on Ottawa.
- blogTO notes Toronto's continuing housing price spikes.
- D-Brief notes that chimpanzees apparently are built to recognize butts.
- Dead Things reports on discoveries of the first land vertebrates.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes the weird patterns of KIC 8462852.
- Marginal Revolution considers Westworld's analogies to the Haitian Revolution.
- Steve Munro looks at the latest on the TTC budget.
- Window on Eurasia notes the controversial nature of the new official doctrine of Russia's nationhood.
For the past couple of winters, I've been feeling as if I live in a foreign country.
Canadians self-define their country as a northern one, verging on the Arctic. This is true, and yet, most of the major population centres of Canada--the great Windsor-Québec City corridor, the Maritimes, Vancouver, Winnipeg, even--are concentrated in the extreme south of the country. In terms of latitude, all of these cities are located considerably further to the south than many European cities we think of regularly, not just as peers but as warmer destinations. It is the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe warm, that gives Tallinn (for instance) the chance to enjoy a climate significantly more clement than the northern Manitoba port of Churchill.
This has been changing in the past couple of years. It hit me most strongly last year, just before Christmas, when I went out for lunch with a friend (hi Mark!). He was wearing bike shorts, and comfortable wearing them. Why not? It was 15 degrees out. Afterwards, I got out of the TTC at Spadina station and just stood for a moment, looking at the Annex around me. It was 4 o'clock, and starting to get dark, and yet it was warm.
Canada, unlike Europe, doesn't have a Gulf Stream. It does share in the greenhouse effect that is already contributing to record winter highs in the Arctic, and elsewhere.
The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani explains why the gray jay, Canada's new national bird, does not have the Canadian "grey" in its name.
Canadians haven’t wasted much time since the gray jay was named Canada’s national bird on Wednesday asking why its name is spelled the American way.
“We wholeheartedly agree that the Canadian/British spelling of “grey” would be preferable, but this is the species’ official name,” said Nick Walker, managing editor of Canadian Geographic magazine in an email to the Star. “As a journalistic publication, we must honour proper names of birds and other animals even when they conflict with Canadian spellings.”
What Walker would most like to see, he added, is for “gray jay” to be changed to “Canada jay,” which is what the bird was known as for about 200 years until the label was changed in 1957.
“Grey,” the British spelling of the colour, is the more common spelling in Canada, but it wasn’t always that way, said University of Toronto linguistics professor J.K. Chambers in an email.
“Until the 1700s, spelling was flexible. In Canada, we have a long history of accepting either British or American standards . . . . Because we are Canadian, we also accept ‘gray’ for ‘grey.’ ”
Madeleine Bunting's essay at The Guardian arguing that the Hebrides have played an outsize role in the formation of British national identities caught my attention.
For a century, Jura has been an anomaly: remote, but under 100 miles from Glasgow or Edinburgh; sparsely populated, yet associated with periodic influxes of the powerful, wealthy and glamorous in search of space and privacy. Appropriately, one of the most bizarre artistic statements about wealth was made on Jura in 1994, when the two members of the pop group the KLF filmed themselves burning £1m in banknotes in a disused boathouse at Ardfin.
George Orwell heard of Jura from Astor, his editor, who regaled him with stories of its beauty and fishing – irresistible to the enthusiastic angler. Orwell, chafing at the restrictions and privations of wartime London, wrote in his diary in 1940 that he was “thinking always of my island in the Hebrides”. He had to wait until 1946 to make the journey, and it turned out to be a melancholy pilgrimage in the aftermath of the deaths of his mother, wife and a sister within the space of three years. But he was enraptured: “These islands are one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles and largely uninhabited.” He added: “Of course it rains all the time but if one takes that for granted, it doesn’t seem to matter.”
Britain’s understanding of itself – its identity and its place in the world – is deeply rooted in being an island. Yet Great Britain is not an island; it is made up of at least 5,000 islands, around 130 of which are inhabited. But this geographical reality has often been ignored, because island, in the singular, brings with it the attractive characteristics of inviolability, steadfastness and detachment. As one clergyman put it in a sermon praising the Act of Union with Scotland of 1707: “We are fenced in with a wall which knows no master but God only.”
Even more erroneously, England is sometimes described as an island. Martin Amis wrote a television essay on England in 2014, which began with images of waves pounding chalk cliffs and the quintessential English mistake: “England is an island nation.” England in fact shares its island with other nations – Scotland and Wales – yet the language of sharing, of being part of an archipelago, has not featured in the English nation’s self-image.
British culture has a long-standing love affair with islands. In Utopia, Thomas More wrote how King Utopos created an island from an isthmus by digging a channel 15 miles wide. Britain’s detachment from continental Europe brought a degree of protection from invasion, and was seen as God’s geographical blessing for a chosen, favoured people. Shakespeare bequeathed a trove of vivid images of England in John of Gaunt’s speech in Richard II: “This little world”; “This blessed plot”. But there has also been an English ambivalence about islands; in a comparably famous passage, John Donne warned of the dangers of separation in his Meditation XVII: “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
- Beyond the Beyond notes an upcoming exhibition of photos of Vaclav Havel.
- blogTO notes a local controversy over the demolition of a community-built skate park.
- Centauri Dreams considers how advanced starfaring civilizations might deal with existential threats.
- Crooked Timber looks at how presidential debates could be used to teach logic.
- Language Hat examines the origins of the evocative Slavic phrase "they perished like Avars."
- Language Log notes how "Molotov cocktail" was confused by a Trump manager with "Mazel tov cocktail".
- The LRB Blog notes Brexit-related insecurity over the rule of law in the United Kingdom.
- The Map Room Blog notes an exhibition in Maine of Acadian-related maps.
- Marginal Revolution looks at how the Hong Kong press has been influenced by advertisers.
- The NYRB Daily looks an exhibition of abstract expressionism.
- The Planetary Society Blog looks at what we can learn from Rosetta.
- Savage Minds considers the place of archeology in anthropology.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Belarus' commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution and considers the dispute in Kazakhstan as to whether the country should be known as Qazaqstan.
- blogTO warned yesterday of impending snowfall.
- Centauri Dreams considers if planets in the circumstellar habitable zones of red dwarfs, like Proxima Centauri b, might tend to be ocean worlds.
- Crooked Timber tries to track down the source of some American electoral maps breaking down support for candidates finely, by demographics.
- D-Brief shares stunning images of L1448 IRS3B, a nascent triple stellar system.
- Joe. My. God. notes the advent of same-sex marriage in Gibraltar.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that, the last time the Cubs won, Russia was run by Romanovs.
- Maximos62 meditates on Bali as a plastic civilization.
- The NYRB Daily reflects on how the Beach Boys have, and have not, aged well.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw looks at un- and underemployment in Australia.
- Torontoist looks at what we can learn from the dedicated bus routes of Mexico City.
- Understanding Society looks at economics and structural change in middle-income countries.
- Window on Eurasia notes one man's argument that Russians should be privileged as the only state-forming nation in the Russian Federation, and shares another Russia's argument against any idea of Belarusian distinctiveness.
Henry McDonald in The Guardian looks at how Brexit is encouraging pro-Union people in Northern Ireland to reconsider their territory's identity, perhaps even allegiances.
When Britain voted for Brexit, a strange thing happened in North Down, an affluent, unionist-dominated area of Northern Ireland with a strong sense of British identity.
As the results came in it became clear North Down had other affinities: European. The area voted in favour of staying in the EU, as the majority of people in Northern Ireland did.
The outcome of June’s referendum triggered a summer of speculation. Had attitudes changed? If unionists saw EU membership as important, might they reconsider their ancient hostility to reunification with Ireland?
Some asked if there should be a “border poll”, a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should stay in the UK or join the Irish Republic. Others feared a push by Scotland towards independence could fatally undermine unionist confidence in the unity of the UK.
But passions quickly cooled. Politicians, among them Bertie Ahern, the former Irish prime minister, said the time wasn’t right for a reunification vote.
In unionist strongholds voters stress that pro-remain is not the same as a pro-reunification. Even diehard loyalists say they are opposed to any “hard border” with the Irish Republic post-Brexit.
- Joe. My. God. notes that Peter Thiel gave $US 1.25 million to the Donald Trump campaign.
- Language Log reports on one parents issues with traditional Chinese characters.
- Marginal Revolution reflects on the interaction between pain medication and labour force participation.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money shares the right's criticisms of Hillary Clinton for her politics and Miley Cyrus for her sexuality.
- The NYRB Daily reports on one Syrian's despair at the fighting in his country.
- Window on Eurasia reports on history wars in Tatarstan over Ivan the Terrible and looks at Belarus' opening to the European Union.
At Open Democracy, En Liang Khong writes about how younger Hong Kongers are starting to stop identifying as Chinese. Much may come of this in the longer run.
When I finally arrive back in Hong Kong in the early hours of a September morning, two years after the 2014 pro-democracy protests, it’s in the middle of a storm. Walking through the rain-splattered city, I see that the highways running across the heart of the finance district have been restored. It’s utterly unrecognizable from when I was last here, when activists led mass occupations, in a bold claim to redefine popular power, using umbrellas to shield themselves from waves of tear gas fired by police, and turning the heart of Hong Kong into a untamed tent city. But although public space in the city-state has been resanitised, we still need to understand the ways in which Hong Kong is entering an unprecedented identity crisis.
This has been a process. We are used to speaking of threats to the Chinese state emerging from the centre. But while that was true in the 1980s, China scholar Sebastian Veg argues that in recent years, such contestation “has increasingly come from the margins.” I went to meet one of the original founders of the 2014 Occupy protests, sociologist Chan Kinman, who is a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “For the younger generation,” Chan tells me, “there has been a very obvious trend of seeing themselves purely as Hong Kong people, not as Chinese.” This is a crucial identity shift. Hong Kongers have long enjoyed a hybrid identity, of being both Chinese and Hong Kongers.
But not this time. Chan thinks the age of dual identity is over, as Hong Kong’s millennials begin to treat it as abnormal, “as something in conflict, not something that can coexist”. The Umbrella movement, in particular, accelerated those contradictions. The failure of a strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience, and the exhaustion of attempts to initiate dialogue with Beijing, have drawn a line in the sand for Hong Kong’s youth, Chan tells me. Ironically, the Hong Kong government itself has been an unwitting driver of the ideology of Hong Kong independence, by publicly targeting and cracking down on the idea in the wake of the 2014 protests. But this strategy of tarring a wide spectrum of pro-democracy activists as separatists, when the discourse of independence was previously a fringe ideology and never central to the Umbrella movement, has been double-edged. After that, Chan “watched as the idea of independence spread massively through Hong Kong”.
What is happening in Hong Kong defies our normal political understanding. “Now you have around 40% of young people supporting Hong Kong independence,” Chan tells me. This crisis of identity is not only fuelling a political vision of Hong Kong as an independent state, but also exists on a cultural level, against Chineseness itself.
Beijing has long been dependent on a traditional sense of ‘Chinese identity’ in Hong Kong to maintain political loyalty. But the Chinese state’s enforcement of patriotism alongside a disavowal of democratic politics has come at a price. It has done little more than alienate, rather than draw closer, a whole swathe of Hong Kong youth. While the older working-class population are still bound to lines of patronage that link them to pro-mainland groups, and the elites support economic symbiosis with the mainland, a young, middle-class, educated ‘generation with no future’ are in full rebellion against both the traditions of their elders, and the state-driven popular nationalism that is rampant in mainland China.
Christopher Dewolf's Vice article takes a look at one farm in Hong Kong and its connection to wider currents about Hong Kong identity and self-sufficiency. Fascinating stuff.
I went to a banana farm to learn about growing fruit in Hong Kong. Instead I learned about democracy.
It started with a visit to Hamilton Street in Hong Kong’s densely-packed Yau Ma Tei district, where a friend introduced me to Tam Chi-kit, who was selling bananas from a folding table on the street. “He grows them himself,” explained my friend.
These were not the ubiquitous Cavendish bananas you find with a Del Monte or Chiquita sticker on them. They were girthy, thick-skinned dai ziu—literally “big bananas”—native to this part of Asia. You can find them in markets all over Hong Kong, along with a few other native varieties. Like many local bananas, Tam’s dai ziu don’t lend themselves well to mass production, so they’re grown on a family farm that has somehow managed to survive in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world.
Though the city is most famous for its thicket of skyscrapers—it has more high-rises than any other place in the world—most of its land area is undeveloped. Much of it is reserved for country parks, but large portions are former agricultural land that has been illegally converted into junkyards and storage facilities. More than 2,000 acres are owned by property developers biding their time until they can build. Farming isn’t easy in Hong Kong.
“Can I come visit?” I asked Tam. “Okay,” he replied. “We’ll make lunch.”
Tam meets me next to a concrete pagoda. The air hums with the sound of cicadas and a chorus of songbirds. As we walk to the farm, Tam points at wild banana trees growing by the road. “Look—bananas everywhere,” he says.
The farm isn’t quite what I expected. It’s a muddy acre of land that spills down a hill to the Sheung Yue River. There are banana trees, but also papayas, soursop and an abundance of herbs. Walking down a concrete path, past two metal gates, we arrive at a cluster of tin-roofed structures. Three elderly people emerge to greet us. There’s Uncle Chan, a gangly, bespectacled man with a toothy grin. Auntie Wong, dressed in a floral print shirt. And Uncle Wong, a stout, bald man with a pugnacious demeanour and a t-shirt commemorating the Umbrella Revolution, the student-led pro-democracy movement that occupied Hong Kong’s streets for 79 days in 2014. It quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary banana farm.
- News of Proxima Centauri b spread across the blogosphere yesterday, to Discover's D-Brief and Crux, to Joe. My. God., to the Planetary Society Blog, and to Centauri Dreams and The Dragon's Gaze.
- blogTO notes the impending opening of Toronto's first Uniqlo and suggests TTC buses may soon have a new colour scheme.
- The Dragon's Gaze discusses detecting exo-Titans and looks at the Kepler-539 system.
- Marginal Revolution notes Poland's pension obligations.
- The Map Room Blog looks at how empty maps are of use to colonialists.
- Steve Munro examines traffic on King Street.
- The NYR Daily looks at what an attic of ephemera reveals about early Islam.
- Otto Pohl announces his arrival in Kurdistan.
- The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia note that more than half of Russia's medal-winners at the Olympics were not ethnically Russian, at least not wholly.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Ukraine's balance sheet 25 years after independence and considers if Belarus is on the way to becoming the next Ukraine.